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Clinton, in Abuja, tasks Africa on growth

Posted by From Madu Onuorah, Abuja on 2006/07/18 | Views: 347 |

Clinton, in Abuja, tasks Africa on growth

THE four-day Seventh Leon H. Sullivan Summit opened yesterday in Abuja with former United States President, William Jefferson Clinton....

THE four-day Seventh Leon H. Sullivan Summit opened yesterday in Abuja with former United States President, William Jefferson Clinton, urging Africans to actualise their dreams.

According to him, the primary focus of Africans should be the restoration of dreams of a prosperous continent.

"There is no single tragedy in Africa more than robbing people of their dreams," he added.

Meanwhile, Nigeria yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Clinton Foundation to facilitate the reliable supply to the country of high-quality, affordable drugs and diagnostics for HIV/AIDS care and treatment.

The signing of the MoU at the Presidential Villa was witnessed by President Olusegun Obasanjo and Clinton just before the kick-off of the Sullivan Summit.

Under the terms of the agreement, which was signed by the Minister of Health, Prof. Eyitayo Lambo and Mr. Ira Magaziner, the Chairman of the Board of the Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative, Nigeria is to be included in the Clinton Foundation's Procurement Consortium. The country will also benefit from the foundation's negotiated supplier agreements to reduce the prices of HIV/AIDS drugs and diagnostics.

Clinton gave the key speech at the opening ceremony of the summit held at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja. He said that the new challenge in Africa today is "building a systematic capacity which will enable the people to live to make their own progress and save their own future." The former U.S. president added: "I read all the time people saying there is corruption in the developing world. But there is too little capacity in Africa. When you create an absence of capacity, you create a vacuum in which all kinds of bad things happen. People need an organised way to pursue their future."

He reminded the audience that "we don't have unlimited amount of time in the planet. Therefore, we need to use the remaining time we have to give some chance to others."

With its theme, "Africa: A Continent of Opportunities- Building Partnership for Success," the summit is billed to have about 800 delegates.

Clinton continued: "We need to say to ourselves, what do we want Africa to be in five to 10 years from now? What changes have to be made by government? What changes have to be made by the NGOs and the private sector? How can we bring them together so that every boy or girl in this continent can live their dreams no matter how different they might be from us?"

He also noted a new initiative designed to improve life in developing countries by working on the economic development of such countries.

Clinton stated that the system would endure and would be available for others to plug onto.

Such a system, he added, must be designed to improve life, per capita income, agricultural productivity, health, education, energy, as well as water and sanitation.

He said: ``If you look at the miracle economics of Asia, it is not only hard work but the opportunity to be part of a system that will reward your intelligence and hardwork."

The former U.S. president said that as part of the overall approach to improve life in Africa, there was the need for all to ascertain their HIV status, because it is for their own good.

Clinton said that it might come to a stage where employers in Africa might ask their employees and their families, including a certain age, to know their status because of increasing concern for their life.

He expressed regrets that 90 per cent of people who were HIV positive were ignorant of their status in Africa and called on countries to initiate actions that could make more people go for voluntary counselling and testing.

The former president also said that the biggest problem promoting the spread of the virus was stigma and suggested that acceptance of people living with the virus in the community and work places would drastically reduce its transmission.

He promised to build the least expensive high quality HIV/AIDS medicine in the world for children and adults.

Clinton now has a foundation named after him to provide treatment and care for people living with HIV/AIDS.

The organisers confirmed that a total of 15 heads of state would attend the events spread over four days and in two centres, namely the Banquet Hall and the Transcorp-Hilton.

Past summits have been held in the Ivory Coast, Gabon, Senegal, Zimbabwe and Ghana. One was held in Abuja in 2003.

The summit is bringing together Africans from the continent and from the Diaspora, including Europe, Latin America, North America and the Caribbean. Also attending are the many friends of Africa.

Discussions at the summit, convened through plenary sessions and forums, is focusing on creating conducive conditions for the growth of the private sector, connecting people and technologies to support the development of a productive population and promoting international policies and business practices that promote Africa's development.

At the opening were President Obasanjo, his Tanzanian counterpart, Jakaya Kikwete, former Jamaican Prime Minister, Percival Patson and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young.

Further on the MoU, the Clinton Foundation pledged to also assist Nigeria in expanding access to pediatric HIV/AIDS care and treatment.

The Foundation will, in addition, help Nigeria to mobilize financial resources from donor-governments, other foundations, multilateral organizations, private corporations and individuals to fund HIV/AIDS interventions and other identified needs.

On its part, the Federal Government will be expected to regularly inform the Clinton Foundation of its priority areas in the effort to curb HIV/AIDS. Where possible, the Government will also be expected to facilitate exemption from taxes and duties for equipment, materials, services and drugs required for the implementation of its partnership with the Clinton Foundation.

In his brief comments at the signing ceremony, President Obasanjo thanked Clinton for his continuing interest in Nigeria and Africa.

He expressed the hope that the MoU and partnership with the Clinton Foundation would provide a significant boost to ongoing efforts by the Federal Government to combat HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.

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